Category Archives: Performing

Bach thoughts

The weekend absolutely flew by! I was mostly working though Louie and I did get to enjoy a nice (but hot) bike ride along the Riverfront Trail on Monday morning.

I’m just popping in for a quick blog post. I know many of you are eagerly waiting to hear more about my travels, and I will, I will tell you!

But not now because I am still busy scheduling and rescheduling students, and mostly busy practicing for an upcoming recital/concert on October 2.

I’m performing Bach’s C Major Violin Sonata for the first time ever, and I’m totally overwhelmed and stressed by this. I’m playing from memory, as one must…at least that’s how I feel about it. The fugue is ridiculous and amazing…I remember the first time I ever heard it (I believe on a CD while I was in high school) and I was blown away by, how could music be like that? It was nothing like I’d ever heard before.

There are 3 Sonatas and 3 Partitas for Solo Violin by Bach, and I’ve performed most of all the other ones except for the C Major (Sonata no. 3), so it was time. And this concert is in a big church, so it will be very nice for Bach.

The thing about solo Bach is…well, there are millions of different ways to perform it, so there’s the fact of deciding how I want to play it, while worrying (and I know I shouldn’t but I do) that any other musicians in the audience will be judging me for playing inauthentically or NOT in the style that they think it should be. Plus worrying about memory and intonation and all of that.

And I’m doing all of this mostly for free. I teach and play gigs and weddings, but most of the “serious” concerts I play are basically for free. I do often get a small stipend, but when you consider all the practice and rehearsal that goes into them…not that I’m complaining, but just telling you.

It’s kind of ridiculous, except those are what I live for! Those concerts are WHY I play the violin, why I insist upon making a living doing this, and why I teach. Especially why I teach, so that my students can appreciate and love a piece of music as much as I do. And if I didn’t surround myself with music all the time, I wouldn’t be the musician I am.

If you aren’t a musician, or if you aren’t crazy this post might not resonate with you, but perhaps you can all appreciate the feeling of worrying about what everybody thinks while just really doing something that you care deeply about that takes up a lot of work…not for financial gain, but simply for yourself.

I do hard things because I can. I look forward to performing, I look forward to being done performing, and knowing that I did something difficult, something challenging, something that might seem pointless (I mean, really, how many times can one play Brahms and Bach and Beethoven…but really, the answer is an infinite number of times, and not everything we do with music has to be new and different and sometimes it can simply be something we love and if that’s the same thing that hundreds of other violinists loved, and maybe even played better, music isn’t a zero-sum game…)…

And what I sometimes forget: maybe somebody in the audience will hear the fugue for the first time, and they will be amazed and changed, just like I was. Just because hundreds or thousands of violinist have performed it, not everybody has heard it. There are people in the world who have never heard Dvorak’s American Quartet, or Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, or perhaps (less likely, but perhaps) Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

I’m not even sure where I’m going with this, except that I feel better having written it.

It’s definitely July

The heat. My god, the heat. (I’m not quoting Seinfeld, he doesn’t own the English language. I made that up on my own.)

We are under a heat advisory until Friday night! This is typical for St Louis. I did go for a short run this morning—I’d gotten new shoes on a steep discount on Amazon Prime Day and was glad they arrived just before I went out. I shouldn’t have waited until 10 am to run though, as it was a heat index of 99 already. I figure it’s good to get acclimated, but also good to take it easy, keep it short, and drink loads of water.

This summer is flying by. Much like life. We are one week away from going out of town for a few weeks. ROAD TRIP. Which was the big climax of the summer and I feel like the summer has been kind of a bummer. It’s no one thing, and honestly, there have been a lot of great moments and activities. But it’s just been a tough year, for a variety of reasons, and the summer hasn’t been any easier. Between personal and career stressors, people and animals being sick and dying, and the horrible things going on in the world and politically, it’s hard to stay positive! I do need to try to do better. Louie suggested we start meditating, and maybe he’s right. I’ve never been one for sitting still and thinking or whatever meditation is about, and maybe it would be good for me.

But as usual, lots of activities. Last week we went to the Cat Video Festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was a fun evening, though the sound for the movies was way too loud! We laughed a lot, and enjoyed a photo booth beforehand.

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I was a VIP. This was because I paid more for our tickets and got a reserved seat. It was annoyingly an obstructed view seat. Maybe I’m complaining too much—it was fun! I wish I had cats!

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Mackenzie is doing a bit better though. Her hair is growing back in many places and she seems to be feeling a lot better too.

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April took some nice photos during the Gateway Festival Orchestra concert last weekend. I had a solo, for which I was very excited about, until I got a giant nerve attack. I was taken aback by getting all shaky as I’ve performed a lot recently, and I do have solos with Winter Opera too! But I got really shaky and didn’t have any beta blockers left…I used to take them for auditions and stuff, but ran out a few years ago and never got another prescription since I thought I was fine. So now I’m not sure what to do. Again, maybe the meditation would help. I think I’ve been under a lot of stress, much of it self-inflicted, and it WAS a big crowd, and an orchestra of people who don’t know me well, and that I was wanting so hard to make a good impression on. Oh well! I think it was still okay, and if they want to judge me for having nerve issues, then fine. Judge me. Join the crowds.

Last night we went to dinner at a restaurant called Sheesh on South Grand. I loved the presentation, so beautiful! The food was delicious as well.

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I’m off to practice for a bit before I teach. I am teaching until the night before we leave, so no rest for the weary!

Super Tuesday

Can you believe the election cycle is still going on? I am trying to think of ways to cope. Sometimes I get too upset and angry over things, both in the news and in day to day life, and I really need to work on staying calmer and reminding myself that the world is a richer place when people see the world differently. And reminding myself that I have chosen a different path in life.

SO…my weekend was crazy. Saturday morning was the Castlewood Cup, for which I was quite undertrained and so was Louie, but we had a great time and I didn’t even come in last…even though I thought I did at the time. I am a seriously slow runner. All of you who say, oh, I’m slow. No. I am. And there was also so much mud, and I thought I was going to die and/or get sucked down into it, lost forever. I might write a proper recap another day. But we lived and we made it! And Louie is a more natural runner than I am and he did quite well.

Then it was pizza and showering and then a Perseid Quartet concert at the Tavern of Fine Arts. We played Dvorak and Smetana and had a great time. This ended up being one of my favorite programs—I’m such a sucker for a romantic program. We had a large and enthusiastic crowd and just had a great time overall. I was starving by the time the concert was over and so really enjoyed my food there too. They have a relatively new chef and he’s fantastic.

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Sunday was a double opera rehearsal day, but at least I got to have a relaxing enough morning. The conductor for the opera, Darwin Aquino, is really great…he’s also a composer and I’m currently listening to a piece he wrote for violin solo. I’m brainstorming a solo violin (only me, no one else) recital program…there are so many cool pieces out there for solo violin, and I’m also finding some (and looking for more) by female composers. That’s another blog post for another day too, probably Smile

So then Monday flew by with lots of students, practice and a rehearsal. Today I had a short rehearsal and then a vet visit. Both of the pets are somewhat on the mend…Chloe’s eyes have definitely cleared up though we have to continue her medication for that, and while Mackenzie isn’t exactly healed, she is doing a bit better for now. I will naturally keep you posted.

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The rest of the week is for teaching, dress rehearsals for the opera, and rehearsals for a young composer’s concert at Webster on Saturday. Should be fun, I guess?!

An Evening Off

It’s amazing to have an evening off. I got home from my fall student recital, put some laundry in, practiced scales for approximately 1 hour and now I’m relaxing. I figured I’d better write a blog post before I fall asleep…even though it’s only 5:20 it’s pitch black outside (well, except for street lights) so I feel like it must be nearly bedtime.

This fall has been out of control. I can’t believe I’m looking forward to the holiday season because things will be less busy. It’s also possible I’m totally wrong on that prediction.

Let’s work backwards. This afternoon 14 students played on my student recital. Today was the first time I’d organized a fall recital for my private students and I’m so glad I was able to get it together. I know the kids learn so much preparing for and performing on recitals. I was particularly proud of a few of my students, one with cochlear implants playing his first recital, another who surprised me by playing from memory when she’d planned to use the music, and two adults who had the nerve to play on a recital with a bunch of kids! But I’m proud of ALL of them, and was so happy with everybody’s performances. I was proud of the students who made mistakes, the ones that stood tall and focused better than they do in the lessons, the one who lost his nerve and had to sit down (especially him, and I hope he doesn’t give up on recitals!)…everybody learned something, and accomplished something that few people in the world are able to. How many of you have played violin on a recital?

Last night the Perseid Quartet played at the Tavern of Fine Arts with Diana Umali. We played Beethoven’s Quartet Opus 59 #1 and Dohnanyi’s Piano Quintet. This was our second performance of the program, and I was glad to have had the first one under our belt. This program was no joke and was a big challenge to have undertaken, but I think we really pulled it off. I believe we are growing as a quartet, and even though we aren’t able to rehearse or practice as much as we might if we weren’t all full time violin/viola/cello teachers as well, we really made some great music! I was pretty stressed about the performance but part way through I really started enjoying myself.

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Many thanks to the Tavern for providing a fun place to perform and watch concerts. I’m sure it’s the case in many places, but Louie and I are constantly struck by how many concerts and performances one can attend practically every night, and especially on the weekends. Mostly we are sorry to miss performances, but when we do get to see them we love it!

Friday night we managed to get to Jazz at the Bistro to see the group Omaha Diner.  I taught right beforehand so we decided to make a night of it and get dinner there. The food was alright—it’s catered by Catering St Louis and I think it’s an improvement over the food they used to have but nothing to write home about. However, being able to eat while enjoying excellent music is a real plus!

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We initially had seats in the balcony, but for the second set (you can stay for no charge if there is availability) we sat on the main floor really near the stage. Both sets of seats were great!

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We ended up sharing our table for the second set with a nice young couple and had a great time chatting with them while waiting for the band to go on again. So, not only great music, decent food, but excellent socialization opportunities? And while I’m not a giant jazz fan (Louie is) I really enjoyed this band—I think it was my favorite concert I’ve attended at Jazz at the Bistro.

Thursday night was our usual Taco Thursday. We’ve ended up going with our friends Ben and Roz quite a few times (they are great to humor our late night dinner schedule! The main issue we have with the event is finding places that serve dinner until 10 pm on Thursday, which is more difficult than you’d think here in STL) and Thursday we did again. We tried Chava’s in Soulard, where I had been years ago but not recently. I had the fried fish tacos and they were pretty good. I’d go there again.

So that’s the highlights of the week. Otherwise it was just teaching, practicing, and rehearsing, with some running (3 times a week pretty consistently), reading (enjoying Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home recently) and of course, lots of pets…

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Now it’s nearly dinner time—sweet potatoes and red peppers are roasting in the oven, to be added with beans to tortillas for tacos!

Computer Updates

So this is my first time blogging from my “new” computer. By new I mean that after I updated it to Windows 10 it was running really slow, and barely working, so Louie installed a solid state drive and now it is running like a dream, but Windows Live Writer (the program I use to blog on) is all weird looking! I guess I can probably mess around with it, but it was hard enough finding the program in the first place (or “app” as the kids call it, and by kids I mean Microsoft, and it’s driving me insane that everything on my PC is called an app when I’m pretty sure Apple came up with the nickname because it was sort of like the first syllable of the company name…but I digress…which is perhaps the point of parenthesis anyway…) so I am a little nervous to mess around. Maybe after this blog post I will do something.

So this week went by fairly quickly. Lots of the usual teaching and practicing and a few rehearsals. I especially enjoyed playing with Bach at the Sem this week—all Bach is just such a delight to play. It makes me grateful I have the opportunity to spend time learning solo Bach too.  I am also working with a didgeridoo player for a performance at a festival this coming weekend (he wrote the music, and also plays some guitar) and have been having a lot of fun preparing that. I’d love to have a few more serious concerts on my schedule, but it’s not like I have nothing going on. (I sometimes think I go through concert withdrawal…I love performing, even though I sometimes get really stressed about it, and then when too long goes by without a solo/chamber music performance I start to really miss it!)

Last night my friend April had some folks over for a birthday party. She’s a few years younger than me (and holding) but she’s turning a year older on Monday and wanted to celebrate early. Now, Louie is having a birthday in a few weeks but he said he’d rather celebrate late than early…where do you stand? I feel like celebrating AFTER a birthday is anticlimactic, but he likened celebrating early to opening Christmas presents before Christmas… To each their own, obviously, but please weigh in with your opinion if you don’t mind. This is also a test to see if you are reading.

I was a little sad I didn’t run the Mo Cowbell run this year. The medals looked really cute, little cows on them…I’ve run it 3 years with NO cows, and this year they do cows. Probably I’ll run next year and there won’t be cows. I can’t find a picture online that I can share with you, unfortunately. I did a ten mile run the other day for my own half marathon training and started thinking about how once I get my speed up a little more I should do a marathon. It was my goal a few years ago and then life got in the way…I think I’m ready to start thinking about it again…

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You can tell I’ve been running because I have a couple of running selfies on my phone. It looks like this weekend is a half marathon—I haven’t run a race all year, can you believe it? I’m nervous Smile and I feel like that can’t possibly be true, but I can’t think of a race I’ve run, so…I think the last race was MO Cowbell last year! I’ve been having a great time running lately, so my smiles are genuine.

Okay, this isn’t the most exciting blog post of all time, but life doesn’t have to be exciting all the time, does it? Life is good and things are going well, and I’m grateful for what I have…and looking forward to a great month!

No creative juice left for blogging!

I always think summer is going to be more relaxing and less busy…so I end up taking on too many projects! And by too many, I mean, just enough that I am insanely busy at times and just busy enough at other times. I have been firing on all cylinders for weeks now, with play rehearsals, practicing for my upcoming concert with my friend Jen, preparing for and entertaining overnight guests, and having a 4th of July party…on the 11th because that’s the when the fireworks in the neighborhood were.

Sometimes I have a million blog posts I want to write. Not lately. Which is crazy because I’ve been doing a lot of stuff and having loads of fun, but also I’ve been stressed out and overwhelmed, and wonder why other people seem to have time to have lives and see friends and clean their houses when I can barely stay on top of all my projects and students, practicing and bills, and phone calls and so many people impatiently wondering if I can fit their child into my fall schedule!

I sound a little overwhelmed*, but I’m also just REALLY looking forward to vacation. And it’s not been all work. *arguably I could spend my time much more wisely than I do, so perhaps I’m overusing the word overwhelmed.

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Fun times at the zoo with my parents. We enjoyed the polar bear the most!

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From our preview performance of The Runaway Cupcake. Two performances down, four to go! It’s been a great experience putting music to the show and working with a wonderful cast of hard-working actors and actresses.

It’s been a lot of work though, between rehearsals, practicing, and working on memorizing all my cues and figuring out what to play when! I’ve been having a lot of fun playing a real role in a play (Basically I play various themes that we came up with that either are in the background, as transitions, or to introduce or re-introduce characters. My role is “The Fiddler” and I keep the action going!)

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This morning Louie and I were able to get out into the woods for a hike. We went to Greensfelder County Park and hiked a trail that we think was the DeClue trail (based on my book, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of St Louis.) It was great to get our hiking boots a little more broken in…and muddy. The hike wasn’t super scenic, but there were lots of bugs and mud. Wait, the good thing…hmmm…it was lovely and green and we got to practice going up and down hills. Also, the park is located right next to Six Flags so as you are hiking you can hear the screams of people on the roller coasters, and the machinery! If I didn’t know better I’d be concerned it was the Smoke Monster from Lost.

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I feel more confident in my hiking boots, which was important to me, so that in two weeks when we are on vacation and doing hiking in REALLY scenic places (Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone, and Grand Tetons) I will be ready! And I’m ready to hopefully leave some of the humidity and bugs behind…

On tap this week and next:

Chartreuse is performing and visiting! My youngest sister Carrie is coming to town to visit and play a concert with her modern music trio. I’m very excited to host them, to see her play, and to get to hang out for about 20 hours (the approximate time that my family members like to visit, evidently! 🙂 )

And then the last event before I hit the road—playing Messiaen, Ravel, and Franck with my friend Jen on piano. In the future I need to remember that summer should be more relaxing!

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More of THIS and less work!

But then again, if I weren’t busy working, I’d be pretty bored, I think. Balance is overrated—who needs work AND life when you have great colleagues and an awesome understanding boyfriend, even when it means he has to go to social events alone sometimes…

July is going by really fast but I’m having a great time (did I say that too many times? I do mean it, I swear!). Even if the next 13 days are a ton of work, it’ll be all worth it when we head out on our road trip and don’t look back for over two weeks. Keeping my eyes on the prize while trying to live in the moment IS a challenge though 😉 (Did I use enough clichés? I also said today that life is in the journey, not the destination, so there’s another one.)

And I get to see my niece Athena soon, so be prepared for some cute baby pictures then! Until then, here is Chloe about to drink a can of sparkling water.

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